Raymond Cantrell, who had taken over the business the previous year, told Fox 2 Detroit that he’d been storing the bodies until their families found money to pay for services — “a favor,” as he put it. The state disagreed, and closed the place down.
It never reopened. Lately, there had been talk of a new owner turning it into a community center, the Detroit News reported. Neighbors saw work crews coming and going, fixing up the stained floors and chipped walls.
And then on Friday, the inspectors abruptly came back.
They had received an anonymous letter that day, Lt. Brian Bowser told reporters outside the funeral home after Detroit police had cordoned it off for the second time since April.
The letter contained directions, the homicide lieutenant said. It led the inspectors to a “hidden” compartment in a lowered ceiling — so concealed that Bowser was not sure anyone would have found it otherwise.
Inside the ceiling were a cardboard box and a casket. The casket contained two dead infants. The box held nine more, wrapped in trash bags.
“They’re very small remains,” Bowser said.
The inspectors called 911, and on Friday night police were trying to contact Cantrell to ask about the 11 dead babies in what had once been his ceiling — to find out if that was another favor to his cash-strapped clients.
The homicide lieutenant thought not.
“It’s just the callousness of the owner, the operators, the employees of the funeral home,” Bowser said.
He said the medical examiner knew the identities of at least some of the infants and was trying to contact their families. The Detroit News reported they appeared to be stillborn.
“I really don’t know how that could even have happened,” the funeral home’s most recent manager, Jameca LaJoyce Boone, told the Detroit News on Friday night. “It’s very unfortunate and they definitely need to find out who put them there.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story cited local news reports that incorrectly said construction workers, rather than state inspectors, discovered the infant bodies.